BY NORBERT RUG
Beautiful Boy is centered on the two books “Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction” written by David Sheff and “Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines” by Nic Sheff. The movie stars Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, and Amy Ryan. It deals with the stressful relationship between a father and his son who was addicted to drugs.
New York Times writer David Sheff notices his son, Nicholas has gone missing. Two days later, he shows up in their home again. Seeing noticeable signs of his son’s drug use, David takes him to a rehab clinic. Progress is achieved, and Nic asks to be transferred to a halfway house where there is less security and unsupervised time is permitted outside of the facility. Both Nic’s doctors and David agreed. A few days later though Nic does not return home and David locates him in the streets.
Nic reveals that he has been consuming not only marijuana and alcohol but other drugs, for example, cocaine, ecstasy, and crystal meth back at the rehab facility. After Nic completes his rehab program and when he sees his improvements, combined with a big dose of wishful thinking, David decides to send him away to college to become a writer.
Nic’s newfound freedom and sobriety are off to a great start and starts a relationship with an attractive classmate. At his girlfriend’s parents’ house however, during family dinner, he discovers a bottle of pills while nosing around in their medicine cabinet. He takes one and then goes back to dinner. After this, he slowly relapses. This causes his girlfriend to break up with him, and his substance abuse to intensify.
Ultimately he starts using heroin using the money his father sends him. About this time, David begins to become suspicious at his son’s slowly changing behavior. When David finds Nic’s diary he decides to read through it. Much to his shock, Nic had filled half the diary with drawings that described his growing addiction. On one of the last pages, Nic mentions that it is hard to obtain crystal meth in college, but he managed to score some heroin. We flash over to see Nic is looking into the safe techniques for injection online.
For more than two hours, I watched the Sheffs’ agony become worse as David attempts to help his son in any way he can. What was even worse was seeing Nic become substance-free for over a year where he worked in working in a rehab facility before he relapsed.
The story jumps around a bit Ala Pulp Fiction with flashbacks inside flashbacks that sometimes were reminiscent of Pulp Fiction.
Nic Sheff’s story is, unfortunately, not uncommon. What is uncommon, though are his circumstances. The viewers can deduce by the Sheffs’ Bay Area home, from the Los Angeles skyscraper that Vicky lives in, from the breaks Nic had in college and in rehab that they have money. A limit to these resources is mentioned just once in the film, that’s when David and Vicky reject a rehab option due to the fact it would cost $40,000 a month.
This doesn’t imply that this story isn’t worthy of being told, but it’s not a coincidence that it’s Nic’s story that is being told. Beautiful Boy is a movie because the Sheffs were able to secure numerous book deals and caught the attention of producers and agents. It’s not just any drug addict movie that is being distributed by Amazon Studios. It stars the extremely popular Timothée Chalamet. There’s is Oscar buzz about it since the trailer was released in spite of the fact that it’s just one of many addiction movies.
Beautiful Boy doesn’t gloss over the horrid portions of addiction. Nic is occasionally depicted as a monster and statistics regarding how discouraging the success rate for rehab is. This is discussed during the course of the movie. The mental and monetary toll on families is clearly shown. The film also shows that addiction crosses all classes and having a good family, wealth and a beautiful house doesn’t insulate you from this problem.
Beautiful Boy doesn’t skirt around anything. It shows Nic diminished to stealing $8 from his younger step-brother and pushing his girlfriend to use. This is important to see, the drug culture at it’s most troublesome.
It was disturbing to witness Nic descend more and more into his drug addiction, but I was happy to read them in the postscript that Nic is, alive and drug-free in 2018. That Nic is staying sober today through effort and is taking one day at a time.
It’s about as happy of an ending as Beautiful Boy can have. It’s just not inspiring or triumphant. It underscores just how few addicts will end up like Nic. However, I am glad he has remained clean and sober long-term and I’m thankful to the Sheffs for allowing others to look at their pain on the big screen.